Andy Murray sounds warning over future of British tennis as career nears end after Australian Open exit

The Scot lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round at Melbourne Park and admits he may not make Wimbledon this year as his career hangs in the balance

Paul Newman
Tuesday 15 January 2019 17:15 GMT
Andy Murray after Australian Open loss: 'maybe I'll see you again'

The careers of Andy and Jamie Murray will go down in history as a golden era for the British game, but as he prepared to head home from the Australian Open after what might be the last match of his career the younger of the two brothers voiced his concerns for the country’s tennis future.

Andy Murray, who was planning to leave here on Wednesday following his first-round defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut, fears that golden opportunities to build on the achievements of recent years have been missed.

Despite the Grand Slam titles won by the Murrays, the country’s historic Davis Cup victory in 2015 and the more modest successes of players like Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta, the numbers of people playing tennis in Britain have been falling. Sport England figures show that that the number of regular tennis players in the country fell by 59,000 in the 10 years to 2016 from 457,200 to 398,100.

“I don’t understand how in the last eight to 10 years that participation is dropping,” Murray said in the wake of what might be his final match as he contemplates further hip surgery. “I don't get it.”

Murray said that having eight British singles players competing in the main draw here this week was “a decent number but not amazing”. He said he was more concerned about the participation figures and the country’s unsatisfactory record in improving playing facilities.

The former world No 1 mentioned the shortage of indoor courts in his native Scotland as an example. No public indoor courts were built in Scotland between 2006 and 2016 during the best years of Murray’s career. Since then two indoor courts have been built at a David Lloyd centre in Glasgow, four at Gleneagles and four at St Andrews.

“I guess those are the things that are important for the future,” Murray said. “You need to get kids playing, you need to have the facilities that allow them to do that.

“I am not sure Britain has really capitalised on the last seven or eight years of success that we've had really, whether it be myself, my brother, Jo, Kyle, Davis Cup, those sorts of things. I'm not sure how much we've done there.”

Murray’s mother, Judy, has been involved in a project to build a tennis and golf centre at Park of Keir, south of the family’s home city of Dunblane. The proposed facility would provide indoor and outdoor tennis courts for community use, but it remains to be seen whether the Lawn Tennis Association will provide some of the additional funding that is needed to make the project a reality.

The LTA came under heavy fire from the country’s Davis Cup team after their historic triumph in the final four years ago for what the players saw as a running-down of the facilities at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton. Some were also concerned at the withdrawal of financial support for elite players, which coincided with a drive by the LTA to divert more money into encouraging participation.

Michael Downey, whose tenure as chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association ended in 2017, was behind that shift in emphasis, but the effect of the switch in funding has been, at best, limited in terms of participation figures. Downey was replaced by Scott Lloyd at the start of last year.

Murray suffered a five-set defeat against Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round
Murray suffered a five-set defeat against Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round (AFP/Getty)

There is clearly a widespread feeling among some at the elite level of British tennis that the LTA has not done enough to capitalise on the extraordinary achievements of the Murrays. For example, successive regimes at the top of the LTA appear to have had little contact with the brothers themselves.

Meanwhile Judy Murray says she would love to see a “Murray Tennis Centre” that “tells the story of the boys”.

“It would be great to say that here’s the legacy from what Andy and Jamie have achieved,” Judy said. “Here’s the centre and here’s the café that’s done up like a Hard Rock Café and it’s got all their tennis rackets and their kit and their stories and their drawsheets and everything all around it.

“For me that would be the great thing. The worst thing would be that it doesn’t happen and we’ve got nothing to show for what we’ve done, because I am not seeing anyone else doing anything. There isn’t anything else in the pipeline and you have to prepare for a legacy.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in